|This post compares American Birthright Accounts to Social Security and responds to readers’ questions about seeming too good to be true.|
American Birthright Accounts: Readers Respond
By: George Noga – June 17, 2018
Reaction to our May 20th post about American Birthright Accounts (“ABA”) was extensive and spirited. If you missed the original post or wish to reread it, you easily can access it on our website: www.mllg.us; however, we provide a summary in the next two paragraphs. Reader responses (addressed herein) centered on (1) comparisons with Social Security; and (2) questioning whether ABAs were too good to be true.
American Birthright Accounts are an original MLLG idea, although the name is borrowed. ABAs are simple and affordable. Every child born in the USA receives a professionally managed, tax-free account funded by government for $5,000 at birth and $500 per year thereafter until age 65. If the account grows at 7% net of inflation, which mirrors the average annual performance of markets since 1930, the account will exceed $1 million at age 65 and generate $6,000 per month of retirement income.
A retired couple, both with ABAs, receives $12,000 a month tax-free, equivalent to $200,000 per year taxable. They own their own accounts and have $2 million to bequeath to their heirs – all tax-free and in today’s dollars. The cost to the government is equal to one-half of one percent of the federal budget, or 25% of what we will spend this year just on food stamps. ABAs also would vastly reduce inequality in America!
How Do ABAs Compare with Social Security?
An American working from age 20 to 67 earning the median income ($60,000) pays $430,000 into Social Security (“SS”) and receives a real (net of inflation) rate of return of 1.2% (per Heritage Foundation) resulting in a notional value of $738,000 at retirement. The average SS beneficiary receives $16,000 per year, or a rate of return of 2.2%. Because SS is 85% taxable, the benefit is equivalent to $13,000 after tax – equal to a real return of 1.8%. Finally, SS benefits are unsustainable at their present level and after circa 2030 beneficiaries can expect to receive only 75% of present benefits.
Let’s put SS side by side with an ABA. The average cost of SS is $430,000, for an ABA it is only $37,500 ($5,000 at birth and $500 a year for 65 years). Average SS benefits are $13,000 per year after tax; for ABAs the comparable number is $72,000. At death, the value of your SS account is zero, zilch, nada; the value of your ABA is over $1 million. Everyone benefits equally from an ABA, whereas the benefits vary wildly for SS. I could go on ad infinitum in this vein, but I believe you get the drift.
Are ABAs Too Good to be True?
Some readers had trouble with the mathematics of ABAs, wondering how it is possible for everyone to be a millionaire? The math is straightforward; the initial $5,000 increases to $435,000 and the $500 per year grows to $573,000 for a total of $1,008,000, all computed from standard compound interest formulas. ABAs compound from birth for 65 years, whereas SS doesn’t begin until 20 years later. ABAs grow at a market rate, while SS grows at the much lower short-term government bond rate.
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There is a much larger lesson here. ABAs succeed due to the power of markets, while SS fails because of the evils of government. Progressives oppose privatizing SS, fearing market success will turn workers into nascent capitalists by giving them a big stake in the free-market economy. Liberal poseurs oppose making everyone rich because it doesn’t fit their nihilist, tribalist, class warfare, identity group narrative.
Next up: The Supreme Court decision to permit sports betting.